34 Negative Statements

Learning Objectives

  • Identify a negative statement.
  • Write negative statements.

Negative statements are the opposite of positive statements and are necessary to express an opposing idea. The following charts list negative words and helping verbs that can be combined to form a negative statement.

Negative Words

never

no

hardly

nobody

none

scarcely

no one

not

barely

nowhere

rarely

Common Helping Verbs

am

is

are

was

were

be

being

been

have

has

had

do

does

did

can

could

may

might

must

will

should

would

ought to

used to

The following examples show several ways to make a sentence negative in the present tense.

A helping verb used with the negative word not.

Sentence: My guests are arriving now.

Negative: My guests are not arriving now.

The negative word no.

Sentence: Minh has money.

Negative: Minh has no money.

The contraction n’t.

Sentence: Yen misses her mom.

Negative: Yen doesn’t miss her mom.

The negative adverb rarely.

Sentence: I always go to the gym after work.

Negative: I rarely go to the gym after work.

The negative subject nobody.

Sentence: Everybody gets the day off.

Negative: Nobody gets the day off.

The following sentences show you the ways to make a sentence negative in the past tense.

Sentence: Huong called me yesterday.

Negative: Huong did not call me yesterday.

Sentence: Ning went to the grocery store.

Negative: Ning never went to the grocery store.

Sentence: Pia laughed when she saw the huge pile of laundry.

Negative: Pia did not laugh when she saw the huge pile of laundry.

Notice that when forming a negative in the past tense, the helping verb did is what signals the past tense, and the main verb laugh does not have an -ed ending.

Exercise 1

Rewrite the following paragraph by correcting the errors in the past-tense negative sentences.

Gifty no did call me when she reached North Carolina. I was worried because she not drove alone before. She was going to meet her friend, Backary, who lived in a town called Asheville, North Carolina. I did never want to worry, but she said she was going to call

when she reached there. Finally, four hours later, she called and said, “Mom, I’m sorry I did not call. I lost track of time because I was so happy to see my friend Backary!” I was relieved.

Double Negatives

Double negatives are two negatives used in the same phrase or sentence. They are considered incorrect in Standard English. You should avoid using double negatives in all formal writing. If you want to say something negative, use only one negative word in the sentence. Return to the beginning of this section for a list of negative words, and then study the following examples.

image

Tip

Ain’t is considered a contraction of am not. Although some may use it in everyday speech, it is considered incorrect in Standard English. Avoid using it when speaking and writing in formal contexts.

Exercise 2

Key Takeaways

  • Negatives are usually formed using a negative word plus a helping verb.
  • Double negatives are considered incorrect in Standard English.
  • Only one negative word is used to express a negative statement.

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College ESL Writers: Mohawk College Edition by Barbara Hall and Elizabeth Wallace is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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